Activist group China Labor Watch (CLW) has outed—or confirmed, depending on your point of view—Apple's plans to release a low-cost iPhone model. In a report accusing Apple supplier Pegatron of labor violations, the labor rights group described an iPhone with a plastic back that it said Apple will release "soon."
The CLW based its report on undercover infiltration of Pegatron factories and interviews conducted outside of those same factories. The group said that Pegatron was requiring workers to work more overtime than allowed by Chinese law and Apple's own Supplier Code of Conduct, and that Pegatron was hiring underage workers.
Included in the report was a section called "July 9, 2013: A day in Pegatron." That section includes the following section, which was noticed by AllThingsD:
Today’s work is to paste protective film on the iPhone’s plastic back cover to prevent it from being scratched on assembly lines. [...] This iPhone model with a plastic cover will soon be released on the market by Apple. The new cellphone has not yet been put into mass production, so quantity is not as important.
Apple has long been thought to be working on such a device tailor made for emerging markets. Leaks from Apple suppliers have said that the device would have a plastic back, a way for Apple to save on the cost of manufacturing.
Apple has worked with China Labor Watch, a frequent critic of working conditions at factories in Apple's supply chain. We would expect that revealing details of unannounced products to jeapordize Apple's relationship with the New York City-based group.